Tag Archives: alan chambers

Why I appreciate John Shore’s letter

[Content Note: Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, Moral Judgement of Same-sex Relationships, Some mentions of racism.]

Angry LetterA couple days ago, a friend on Facebook shared a link to John Shore’s open letter to Alan Chambers regarding Alan’s apology.  I read it and winced.  It was full of John’s well-known snark and sarcasm and is, in my opinion1, way over the top.  Plus, I often disagree with John about some of his positions.  For example, I’m willing to give people a lot more leeway on their views of same-sex sexual relationships2.  And that whole KKK comparison?  Yikes3.  So like Wendy Gritter4, I found myself uncomfortable with John’s letter.

But as I thought about this letter more and more, I’ve also come to appreciate it.  Yes, there are things about it I’m uncomfortable with.  There are things that I would have said differently or possibly not said at all if I had been the one writing it.  But on the flip side:

  • It is nice to see someone who is all in for supporting my rights and protections and defend not only my humanity and my dignity, but even my (relative) moral rectitude.
  • I look at the number of people (including that friend from facebook) who not only found validation for their own feelings about Alan’s apology through John’s letter, but were better able to understand and clarify what their feelings were because of it.
  • As someone who has gotten a bit of the “why can’t we all just forgive Alan” pushback and even got accused of “yelling” at someone when I objected, I appreciate the fact that there’s a voice that’s full of even more fire that makes my already calm (in my opinion, at least) objections look downright gentle by comparison.

I consider all of those outcomes good things.  So yeah, maybe John’s comment is unhelpful in the sense that it does nothing to smooth things out between Exodus and those hurt by them.  But maybe smoothing things out between the two groups isn’t the only goal.  Who knows, maybe it’s not even one of the top five priorities right now.

1Several other people will disagree with my opinion, including many LGBT people.  That’s cool.

2Ultimately, I do think John is right.  To truly be 100% in the corner of LGBT people, I think someone has to give up their right to pass moral judgment on our relationships5.  However, I do agree with Warren Throckmorton when he says that we all have to live together, and I’m willing to have some degree of relationship with someone who thinks there’s something sinful about same sex sexual relationships.  However, that belief will create boundaries between that person and myself that don’t exist between myself and those who feel otherwise.  So my position may be close to John’s or miles away from it depending on your perception the nuances I’m hinting at here.

3Confession time.  My problem isn’t that I don’t think that there should never be comparisons between homophobia, transphobia, and racism, or the struggles of various marginalized groups.  What bothers me more with this analogy is that far too much of LGB6 activism is being spearheaded by white men who are notorious for only bringing up issues of race to make analogies like this.  We as a community have been rightfully called on this, and John’s analogy makes it clear that many of us and our allies have not internalized that challenge.

4I don’t know if Wendy did this intentionally, but I appreciated the way she phrased her statement regarding the letter.  “I’m uncomfortable with….”  Not “John shouldn’t have said that.”  Not “his tone wasn’t helpful.”

5But then, I think that when a person goes from a morality that focuses on “this is what I believe I am called to do” and instead starts to focus on “this is what you should do,” that person is in trouble territory.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking sexual choices or any other kind.

6I’m intentionally leaving off the T because the activists I’m thinking of also have a tendency to ignore or pay minimal attention to trans* needs as well.

Musings on Alan Chambers’s Apology

[Content Note:  Anti-LGBT Discrimination, Sexual Orientation Change Effort, Ex-Gay Rhetoric]

Just saying.
Just saying.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Alan Chambers offered an apology to the (other) members of the LGBT community.  I wanted to take a moment and look at it and offer my thoughts and reactions to it.

Before I get to the apology itself, I do want to offer a bit of criticism of his lead-in commentary.  Let me just say that I can sympathize with the fact that Chambers is taking a lot of flak from people who used to support him, not to mention the continuing flak that many in the LGBT community might be giving to him.  However, I also have to say that I find it highly inappropriate to start talking about one’s own struggles and how you feel you’ve been wronged when building up to an apology to the people you yourself have wronged.  Apologies 101 says that you keep the focus on the hurt you’ve caused one another.  I think that’s something Alan needs to keep in mind.

He opens the apology itself by telling a story about a four car collision that he caused.  He tells this story to draw home an important point:

I never intended for the accident to happen. I would never have knowingly hurt anyone. But I did. And it was my fault. In my rush to get to my destination, fear of being stung by a silly bee, and selfish distraction, I injured others.

This is actually something a few of us were concerned about.  We were concerned that Alan would try to pass off any harm done by Exodus and its member ministries as “accidental.”  It’s good to see that he instead chose to tackle this head on and say that he’s responsible for even the “unintentional harm.”

He then goes on to name some of the ways — mostly the more extreme ways — in which some people were hurt by their experiences with Exodus member ministries.  He even admits personal culpability in the fact that he wasn’t always up front about how much he still struggled (struggles) with same sex sexual attraction, thereby reinforcing a false image that others hoped to, failed to achieved, and felt grief and shame over.  He goes on to talk about the ex-gay narratives that shamed parents.  He confesses to not standing up against those Christian supporters he had who said horrible things about LGBT people.  Overall, Alan lists many criticisms that have been leveled against him and Exodus, acknowledges them, and apologizes without defense or excuse.

The one thing I note as lacking is that Alan never challenges how Exodus’s message of “change” was often used as political cover.  The relationship between those who promoted Sexual Orientation Change Effort (whether based in religion, some form of therapy, or a combination of the two) and those who would deny LGBT the full protection of the law and the same rights as their non-LGBT counterparts has always been mutually reinforcing and symbiotic.  Those who would deny LGBT people rights and protections often point to the ex-gay narratives and say, “See?  They don’t need these protections.  They can just turn straight.”  Similarly, the difficulties that LGBT people face due to discrimination and social stigma perpetuated by anti-LGBT activists also keep many LGBT people in a state of misery that makes them more susceptible to promises made by ex-gay organizations.  Alan’s failure to acknowledge those relationships between the two groups and apologize for contributing to the overall toxic mentality toward LGBT people is troubling to me.

Also, I note that Alan does not seem to acknowledge that, while Exodus will be closing its doors and he will personally be getting out of the ex-gay industry, the legacy he helped to build will still go on.  This apology will not stop people from building on the foundation he and the rest of Exodus have already laid.  It will not stop people from continuing to point to his relationship with his wife and his past words as “proof” that LGBT people everywhere should make the same choice and condemn those who don’t.  I hope that this is a truth that Alan comes to wrestle with and considers what more he might do to loudly decry those who would continue to build on the legacy he’s left.

Furthermore, an apology will not heal any of the wounds already inflicted or any of the damage already done.  That takes more effort, and I find myself wondering what Alan is prepared to do to go beyond simply apologizing and restoring those who he and the rest of Exodus have hurt.  Perhaps that is part of his and the other board members’ vision for the new organization they hope to start.  Only time will tell.

The End of Exodus International

[Content Note:  Brief mentions of Sexual Orientation Change Effort and those who have promoted such efforts, both past and present]

Exodus International has announced that it is closing its doors.  In their announcement, Alan Chambers indicated that they have realized that the organization has become “imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”  Chambers continues thus:

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered.

Exodus Off SwitchThat’s a pretty stark, honest, and self-incriminating statement for Chambers to make, who has often been (justifiably) accused of equivocation in the past.  His apology, which he offered the same day as this announcement (and which I hope to cover in a future blog post), was equally candid and vulnerable.

Of course, Alan and the other Exodus board members don’t intend to merely disappear.  They hope to build a new organization:

For these reasons, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to close Exodus International and begin a separate ministry. “This is a new season of ministry, to a new generation,” said Chambers. “Our goals are to reduce fear (reducefear.org), and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

It will be interesting to see how this new organization shapes up and how they plan to live out their goals.  I’m curious to know what fear they hope to reduce?  Are they hoping to reduce the fear that many LGBT people justifiably have of many conservative Christian individuals, churches, and organizations?  Are they prepared to consider what they really may have to do to truly undo that damage and transform their churches into places that some LGBT people might again find welcoming?

Or will those involved fall into those same old patterns that are so familiar to them?  Will they fail to see some of the subtler attitudes and behaviors that will continue to leave many LGBT people feeling wary of them?

And as always, will they give up their own sense of safety in order to meet LGBT people where we are and where we already feel safe, or will they remain in their “more welcoming” cloisters and wonder why still so few seek them out?

One thing is for certain, while this is the end of Exodus, it is not the end of Exodus’s legacy or the ex-gay movement among Christian movements.  There will still be other organizations — such as the relatively new Restored Hope Network — to carry that torch for years to come.  All the same, I’m glad to see the Exodus board pulling the plug and refusing to carry that torch any further themselves.

“Deeply negative implications” aren’t motivating enough?

Recently, there’s been a bit of a brouhaha between Exodus International’s Alan Chambers and others in the ex-gay industry due to Chambers’s rejection and criticisms of reparative therapy.  Recently, NARTH president Joseph Nicolosi chimed in, correcting some of Chambers’s statements and criticizing the Exodus International president.

I want to focus on the last paragraph of Nicolosi’s email:

If homosexual acts truly constitute sin, as you say you believe, then people deserve to be able to avail themselves of all reasonable therapeutic tools to diminish unwanted SSA and explore their OSA potential. You are discouraging them from having such tools, and also as a Christian, you are reassuring them that they are OK whether they “fall” or not, which gives people very little reason to struggle against a condition which has very deeply negative implications for both themselves and for our culture.

It’s unclear to me what Nicolosi means when he suggests that Alan Chambers is “telling them [gay people] that they are OK whether they ‘fall’ or not.”  Some, such as Dave Rattigan, have interpretted “OK” to mean “Will go to heaven.”  I can certainly see where one might interpret the statement that way, though I’m not convinced it’s the only explanation.  Nicolosi could also, for example, be suggesting that he still champions the belief that even being attracted to members of the same sex is sinful and problematic, a belief that has been discarded by most.  Or he could simply be suggesting that Chambers should be encouraging gay people to feel miserable about themselves and are full of self-loathing.  Quite frankly, I don’t find either of my alternate interpretations any less detestable than Rattigan’s, but I think it’s important to include them.

I think what’s more interesting is Nicolosi’s suggestion that gay people need some sort of external impetus — be it the threat of hellfire or people encouraging them to view themselves with self-loathing, to change.  And while Nicolosi thinks that without such impetus, people won’t be motivated to change and avoid the “very deeply negative implications for bot themselves and for our culture.”  To me, that begs a qustion though:  why aren’t those “deeply negative implications” motivation enough?

If the condition of being gay negatively impacts people, then that should be sufficient reason for them to seek change.  And yet, they’re not.  Nicolosi is himself admitting that they’re not and won’t.  I can only assume that Nicolosi simply doesn’t think people are adults and lack the maturity to do the things in what’s their best interests or that Nicolosi is being dishonest — with others and possibly even himself — about these supposedly “deeply negative implications” he mentions.